Every year in football, fans get a glimpse of a fairytale story. However, this season has been remarkable as multiple clubs have gone and performed far beyond expectations. Napoli won the Serie A title after 30 years; the Bundesliga saw the rise of new giants Union Berlin, while La Liga saw Real Sociedad emerge as one of the top dogs. Even the lower leagues have seen some brilliant teams, such as the fantastic journey of Wrexham United and the rise of Luton Town in the Championship under Rob Edwards.
Luton Town’s story is the stuff of dreams, with the club returning from non-league and now with a great chance to get back into the Premier League, which would be a remarkable end to their resurgence. The club’s rise has many heroes on the managerial front, such as John Still and Nathan Jones. However, a new man has been leading the club from the dugout since November. Appointed in November 2022, Rob Edwards has guided Luton Town to a third-placed finish which means they are in contention for a promotion to the Premier League.
So, who is Rob Edwards, and how good is he?
Who is Rob Edwards
Robert Owen Edwards was born in Telford, England, on December 25, 1982. As a player, he started his journey making his debut for Aston Villa in 2002. Over the next two years, Edwards would make a handful of appearances before he was sent on loan spells to Crystal Palace and Derby County.
In 2004, he left Aston Villa to join Wolverhampton Wanderers, where he played 100 appearances for the next four years. His next stop would be Blackpool, where he played for two years, followed by a loan spell at Norwich City.
His next club was Barnsley, where he would again play on loan for two clubs, Fleetwood Town and Shrewsbury Town, before retiring in 2013.
Immediately after retiring, the former centre-back threw himself into coaching, becoming the coach for the under-18 team of Wolverhampton Wanderers. His impressive displays for the team got him the job as the manager of the senior side in 2016 on an interim basis. He would spend his time in the role for two years.
Who will win the Championship play-offs?
The pressure is on Luton Town, based on the Opta supercomputer's calculations. pic.twitter.com/ynzxEIo1Qu
— Opta Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) May 9, 2023
He would then be promoted to the under-23 coach before leaving for stints with the England under-16s as head coach and England under-20s as a coach.
Following this, he was appointed League Two side Forest Green Rovers manager. Edwards immediately changed the fortunes of the side as they won the title and, in the process, helped the club achieve promotion to League One, a first in the club’s history.
His impressive performance caught the eyes of Watford, who had just been relegated to the Championship and were looking to get a swift return back to the Premier League. However, he lasted only two months before being sacked, after which he was immediately offered the Luton Town job.
Rob Edwards’s tactics and style of play
Rob Edwards is the perfect example of a man manager who chooses to work on the players in private rather than lambasting them in public. On the tactical front, he prefers using a three-man backline, which impels his wingbacks to join in the attack.
Edwards is a manager who believes in establishing a solid defence that the team can use to launch attacks. The Welsh manager set his team to play a very direct style which means that his players have to be fluid in transition.
Another thing that Edwards puts a significant emphasis on is high zonal pressing. One of the reasons that Forest Green Rovers had a fantastic season was the use of efficient Gegenpressing that left teams in League Two flabbergasted.
Since Edwards prefers to use wingbacks, his team is set up so that if they win the ball, they immediately take the ball towards the wings, which stretches the opposition’s team and opens up several gaps in the opposition.
And Edwards also signs players who are perfectly tailored to his tactics. In his title-winning season with Forest Green Rovers, Edwards showed this. The team had the sixth-most shots but scored the most goals as they had the most shots on target per 90 minutes. It was because, under his system, the players that he identified were able to create chances that had a higher chance of ending up as a goal.
Luton Town manager Rob Edwards wants the “amazing”atmosphere like there was for the Watford game but notched up “a little bit more again”. #Hatters commentary for 2nd leg v Sunderland tomorrow night.https://t.co/lyUDKAY16U pic.twitter.com/PgJDSXcGa3
— BBC Sport Three Counties (@BBCSport3CR) May 15, 2023
Rob Edwards Luton Town analysis
As mentioned earlier in the article, Edwards puts massive emphasis on having a solid defensive backline. And the stats back it up. Luton Town have conceded the third least goals in the league, bettering their Expected Goals against metric by six goals. The team has also conceded the least amount of shots on target.
The other thing where Luton Town have been incredible is high pressing. Stats from Soccerment shows that the team are third in the Buildup Disruption Percentage (BDP), a metric which measures the amount of pressing a team does to dispossess the opposition.
His use of wingbacks has also been successful, with the team completing 161 crosses, the most in the league. Luton Town have also won 1126 aerials, the third-most in the league, which shows that their crossing tactics have a clear pattern behind them.
The star of the team, though, has been striker, Carlton Morris. The Englishman has scored 20 goals and is ranked as the third-best player on the Expected Offensive Value Added (xOVA) metric, which measures the total attaching output of a player.
Edwards’s emphasis on counter-pressing is also evident by the fact that Amari’i Bell has the third most counter-pressing actions in the league. Alfie Doughty has been the most successful player in terms of crosses, while Tom Lockyer has the third most clearances in the league.
It is safe to say that Rob Edwards has done an amazing job despite coming in the midseason. Furthermore, his playing style is something that would ideally suit the Premier League and be Luton Town’s best chance for survival if they do get promoted. But for that to happen, Edwards will need his team to put in four more brilliant performances in the playoffs to fulfil the dream of a Premier League promotion.